I remember I met a guy online once. He was trying to impress me. He said he cared for his aging mother for a few years until she died. He said he’d done this as an Act of Love.
My mother cared for my father for several years. She waited until the last ten days of his life before she was told that he needed so much nursing care that maybe he should spend his final days in a nursing home. I remember it was a tough decision. He didn’t want a nursing home, however they needed so many nurses, skilled nurses that hiring them to come to the home was too impractical at that point. Also, they needed equipment that my mother couldn’t obtain nor rent. Nowadays, I think renting such equipment might be possible, but then, it wasn’t at all practical. My mom found a place quickly and my dad, who could barely speak at that point, was agreeable.
I don’t happen to recall who called whom. My brother who had recently taken a job a distance away came to Massachusetts on emergency visit.
It was one of those “This Is It” situations.. Only if someone’s dying, or think they might be dying. You only show up at the beginning or end of life. This is when you see those long-lost relatives. They are ten years older now. Or gone.
I recall my mother explained to me about Dad being in the nursing home. She said, “It’s temporary.”
No, I didn’t ask for any further explanation. I knew there were unspoken follow-up sentences. I don’t need to write them, either.
I think someone tried to tell me in Plain English what was happening. Like I didn’t already know. You die of cancer. Okay.
I look back now, nearly 18 years later. I remember I thought my mother was being trite because she complained about changing adult diapers. Now, I admire her honesty. I admire her admitting she hated changing Dad’s diapers. I admire that she dared to speak up about how she truly felt. Another woman wouldn’t have dared to admit it, and only spoken of the “Act of Love” they did.
Perhaps, the guy I met online didn’t mind changing his mother’s diapers. Maybe he didn’t hate changing them. Maybe he never gave it a thought. Maybe he had never changed his own kids’ diapers, so he couldn’t see the irony in it.
Maybe my mother, after three years, was just plain worn out. She told me the folks at the nursing home were great with Dad. She showed up every day. One day it snowed so hard she had to take her cross-country skis across town to get to the nursing home. I no longer see my mother as the flighty, trite woman that I once portrayed her in my writing. I see her as a person who is strong, independent, and stubbornly refuses to give up.